Seabirds washing up on beaches in Southern England
Update: 4pm Wednesday 6th February 2013
Mysterious sticky substance that covered so many birds on the south coast last week has been identified as an oil additivie used to make ships engines more efficient. Techy term is polyisobutene (PIB)
Update: 4pm 5th February
The Environment Agency has identified the substance causing the dath of a number of hundred seabirds in recent weeks as a refined mineral oil, rather than the originally suspected plant-derived oil.
Over 300 birds have been rescured, awaiting release when the threat from the source of the material is believed to have dissipated.
12pm 1st February
A number of stricken seabirds have been reported from beaches in the south-west of England in recent days. They appear to fouled by a waxy substance, leaving them unable to fly or swim effectively. While the total number of birds, mostly guillemots, found dead or alive is in the low hundreds at present, the spread (from East Dorset/Hampshire, to Cornwall) suggests that the source of the material may be well offshore, and that much larger numbers of birds and other animals may be affected.
We have been informed by the Environment Agency that laboratory tests are being carried out on the material. The treatments that are working effectively by the RSPCA indicate that the material is not a petroleum product, but may be palm oil or other plant-derived oil.
Recent reports suggest that the number of birds washing up alive is decreasing, and birds being found today are, in the main, washing up dead. At least twenty were found along Chesil beach this morning.
In the first instance, if you come across an affected bird, you should not touch it, and should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
You can also call the regional co-ordinator of the British Divers for Marine Life Rescue 07774 711949
We will be keeping a close eye on the situation, and will provide updates on this page, and via Facebook.
The incident shows again that a network of well-protected marine conservation areas is needed for marine life around the United Kingdom's seas.